County Seeks Proposals for 2nd Allocation of Community Development Block Grant – Coronavirus Funds

The County of Hawaiʻi’s Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD) is set to receive approximately $978,184 in a second allocation of federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG-CV2) funding as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).  

Under the CDBG-CV2 program, grants or loan assistance may be used by eligible public agencies and private non-profit organizations to prevent, prepare and respond to the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and are intended to target public health, housing and economic recovery needs in Hawaiʻi County that benefit low- and moderate-income persons.

Projects could include constructing testing, diagnosis or treatment facilities; supporting new businesses or business expansion to create jobs in response to COVID-19; improving facilities to support social distancing and increased sanitation; and expanding microenterprises that address specific needs during quarantine related to medical assistance, food delivery, cleaning, and other essential services. Special preference will be given to proposed projects meeting the urgent needs of low- and moderate-income persons affected by COVID-19 as well as those that aid in stimulating the local economy.

The proposal forms and federal guidelines covering the eligible activities will be available beginning today, June 22 at the locations below or at the OHCD website. Original proposals with supporting documentation plus two (2) copies must be received by 4:30 p.m. on July 13, 2020 at:

Office of Housing & Community Dev. Office of Housing & Community Dev.
1990 Kinoʻole Street, 74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Hwy
Suite 102 Building B, 2nd Floor
Hilo, HI  96720 Kailua-Kona, HI  96720

For questions regarding the CDBG-CV2 application and submittal process, contact the OHCD at 961-8379 or ohcdcdbg@hawaiicounty.gov. 

Kona Community Hospital, Straub Medical Center Receive Nearly $12 Million in Federal Relief Funding

Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz announced that Kona Community Hospital on Hawai‘i Island and Straub Medical Center on Oahu received a combined $11,927,758 in new federal funding to support health care services for vulnerable and low-income individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. The two medical centers serve as safety net hospitals, providing care to individuals regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay for health care services.

Kona Community Hospital

“Kona Community Hospital and Straub Medical Center play an essential role in providing health care to our most vulnerable residents on the Big Island and Oahu,” said Sen. Schatz, member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “With hospitals on the front lines of this global health crisis, this federal funding will provide important resources to make sure they remain operational so that everyone can get the care they need regardless of their ability to pay.”

The new funding is part of the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. Hospitals that serve a disproportionately high number of Medicaid patients or provide large amounts of uncompensated care are eligible for this safety net allocation from the Provider Relief Fund.

In addition to this funding, Hawai‘i health providers have received more than $200 million in federal grants to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, including funding to acquire PPE, cover testing and treatmentsupport rural hospitals, and other response efforts.

More Federal Emergency Grant Awards for Hawaii to Address COVID-19 Impacts

Hawaii Congressman Ed Case announced today that the federal government has awarded more than $31 million additional dollars under emergency funding measures to the State of Hawai‘i to mitigate the immediate health and economic impacts of COVID-19.

Congressman Ed Case

“After Congress enacted H.R. 748, the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, in March, the federal government moved quickly to get desperately needed emergency assistance distributed throughout the country as soon as possible, and Hawai‘i received the first awards in April to help our communities here deal with this pandemic on all levels,” said Case.

In this newest round of funding from the CARES Act, our communities will receive more than $30 million in federal aid from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to enable the delivery of critical programs and services to the people of Hawai‘i.

“This round of Emergency Solution Grant (ESG) awards will provide funding to help homeless and low-income persons to regain stability in permanent housing,” said Case.  “The grants also provide funding for emergency and or transitional shelters and rapidly/immediately rehousing homeless persons and families.” 

The awards are as follows:

Case said the funding allocated today can be used to: 

  • Make more emergency shelters available for homeless individuals and families.
  • Operate emergency shelters by providing food, rent, security, maintenance, repair, fuel, equipment, insurance, utilities, furnishings, and supplies necessary for their operation.
  • Provide Hotel/Motel Vouchers for homeless families and individuals.
  • Provide essential services to people experiencing homelessness including childcare, education services, employment assistance, outpatient health services, legal services, mental health services, substance abuse treatment services, and transportation.
  • Prevent individuals from becoming homeless and rapidly rehouse homeless individuals.

Case said Congress has provided $4 billion for HUD’s ESG program for local governments to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus among individuals and families who are homeless, receiving homeless assistance, or are at risk of becoming homeless.

Delegation Urges USDA to Provide Relief Funding to Aid Hawaii’s Specialty Crop Farmers

U.S. Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie K. Hirono and U.S. Representatives Tulsi Gabbard and Ed Case called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand its Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to include Hawai‘i’s unique specialty crops and help Hawai‘i farmers.

“The severe economic impacts from the pandemic have left Hawai‘i’s farmers in dire need of financial assistance to remain in production, and we request your leadership and assistance in providing them much needed immediate relief,” the delegation wrote in their letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue.

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which was funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provides financial assistance to farmers who are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some specialty crops are immediately eligible under the program, the vast majority of specialty crops in Hawai‘i, including macadamia nuts, coffee, bananas, and pineapples, are not, and will instead have to undergo an administrative process to determine their eligibility. Specialty crops make up 70% of Hawai‘i’s top agricultural commodities.

The full text of the letter is below:

——————————————————————

Dear Secretary Perdue:

We are extremely concerned with the list of specialty crops announced on May 19, 2020 as eligible for assistance under the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). With specialty crops making up 70% of Hawai‘i’s top agricultural commodities, those producers are amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic. Yet, USDA’s list fails to include the majority of our state’s specialty crops. Hawai‘i’s farmers need immediate relief, and we request that you expand eligibility to include specialty crops that make up our top twenty agricultural commodities. We urge you to also work with Farm Service Agency personnel in Hawai‘i to recognize all specialty crops produced in our state as soon as possible.

The majority of Hawai‘i’s farms are diversified with specialty crops. Our state leads the U.S. in acres producing macadamia nut, papaya, passion fruit, taro, bananas, coffee, pineapple, and ginger root—and yet, from that list only papaya and taro are on the USDA’s current list for relief. The most recent statistics for Hawai‘i’s top agricultural commodities from the National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) underscore this concern:

CommodityValue of Production 
(millions)
     Specialty
Crop Status
Seed Crops$120.8 
Macadamia Nuts$53.9YES
Cattle$43.891 
Coffee$43.774YES
Other Aquaculture$41.177 
Algae$35.19 
Landscape Plant Material$22.354YES
Papayas$9.4YES
Milk$9.214 
Lettuce$8.705YES
Bananas$6.028YES
Palms, potted$4.607YES
Plant Rentals$3.44 
Dendrobiums, potted$3.24YES
Sweet Potatoes$3.12YES
Anthurium$2.892YES
Honey$2.374YES
Dry Onions$2.080YES
Cabbage, Chinese$1.725YES
Ginger Root$1.7YES

While a handful of specialty crops from this list are currently on the USDA’s list of specialty crops immediately eligible for relief under CFAP, the specialty crops that are currently omitted leave a large number of Hawai‘i’s farmers either waiting and hoping to be included in the list of eligible specialty crops, or in the same category as wheat, soy, corn, and other row crops.

Furthermore, crops currently left off the list, like bananas and ginger, are locally consumed and contribute to our food security. Failing to provide these producers with relief may force them to pivot to export crops and decrease our local food production. We appreciate that USDA is working to gather information from industries to assess the possibility of including additional specialty crops as eligible at a later date. However, impacts to farmers in Hawai‘i began months ago and timing of assistance is critical to keep our farmers in production.

Hawai‘i’s economy has been exceptionally hard hit during the pandemic because of the state’s dependence on the hospitality industry and visitor spending. The University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization (UHERO) projected real visitor spending to decline by 17% in the second quarter, but the actual impacts could easily exceed the forecast. For example, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported that visitor arrivals and associated visitor spending were down nearly 54% and 52%, respectively, from March last year.

The pandemic has had severe impacts on the state’s agricultural producers, but it is difficult to provide definitive statistics at this time. On April 27, UHERO published data from a survey of 623 businesses statewide, and reported the following figures for agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting: a 21% loss in agricultural jobs from January to April of this year, causing a 17% loss in revenue. According to the Hawai‘i Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, to date over 238,000 unemployment claims, representing roughly 34% of the total workforce, have been filed since March 1.

The severe economic impacts from the pandemic have left Hawai‘i’s farmers in dire need of financial assistance to remain in production, and we request your leadership and assistance in providing them much needed immediate relief.

Sincerely,

Brian Schatz
United States Senator

Mazie K. Hirono
United States Senator

Tulsi Gabbard
Member of Congress

Ed Case 
Member of Congress

Hirono, Brown, Colleagues Demand DOL Assist State Unemployment Insurance Agencies

Senator Mazie K. Hirono joined Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and 22 of their colleagues to call for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to work with states to address the alarming delays in processing Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. 

Hawaii Unemployment website

The CARES Act, the third coronavirus relief package Congress passed, authorized three kinds of benefits: the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). Most states took several weeks to get these programs started, and some states still have yet to distribute PUA and PEUC benefits. The Senators also called for a nationwide overhaul of UI systems’ technology capabilities to prevent future delays in providing benefits especially during the economic downturn.

One in three Hawaii workers are unemployed, and Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) has received nearly a quarter of a million unemployment insurance applications during the coronavirus pandemic. Government information technology infrastructure has struggled to keep up with the surge in demand. In response, DLIR has opened new call and claims processing centers, and received help from hundreds of volunteers.

“States’ outdated technology is one of the most commonly cited reasons for the delays; after years of neglect, the technology is difficult to update to meet new requirements. We urge you to complete a comprehensive assessment of state UI systems and to make policy recommendations to Congress to address state systems’ shortfalls. We also urge you to use all of your authority and resources to provide states with the assistance they need to expedite the disbursement of benefits,” the Senators wrote.

In addition to Senators Hirono and Brown, the letter was also signed by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.).

The letter can be found below:

Dear Secretary Scalia:  

We write to express our serious concern with the significant delays in the processing of Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims that are preventing workers from receiving their benefits in a timely manner. While some states are now distributing benefits under three major UI programs authorized by the CARES Act – Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – it took most states several weeks to get these programs up and running, and some states are still weeks away from beginning to distribute PUA and PEUC benefits. States’ outdated technology is one of the most commonly cited reasons for the delays; after years of neglect, the technology is difficult to update to meet new requirements. We urge you to complete a comprehensive assessment of state UI systems and to make policy recommendations to Congress to address state systems’ shortfalls. We also urge you to use all of your authority and resources to provide states with the assistance they need to expedite the disbursement of benefits.   

We recognize the unprecedented number of claims and the unique nature of the current economic crisis, but it is unacceptable that UI systems across the country have been so ineffective at providing workers with this critical safety net in a timely manner. Even in the states that have started paying out CARES Act benefits, claimants must overcome challenges of poorly functioning websites, long waits on help hotlines, and, in the worst cases, inaccurate denials of benefits. These delays are devastating for thousands of workers across the country who have lost income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and have gone weeks, sometimes months,

The Department of Labor (DOL) Inspector General (IG) highlighted many of these issues in a report released April 21, 2020, and we urge you to use the IG’s findings on state UI systems as a basis for a comprehensive assessment of UI programs in all 50 states. Specifically, the IG report identified states’ lagging efforts to modernize unemployment systems which “has resulted in processing delays and inaccurate unemployment compensation payments.” The 2009 Recovery Act provided funding to help states modernize the software and technology essential for states to efficiently process claims, but many states did not take advantage of that funding. As a result, the IG stated that the “state of legacy systems,” in addition to other factors, “will continue to impede the management and oversight of UI benefits.”

A nationwide overhaul of UI systems’ technology capabilities is necessary to prevent this unfair delay in benefits from persisting during this economic downturn and occurring in the future. To help Congress devise the most effective policies to respond to these inadequacies, we urge DOL to undertake a comprehensive but quick assessment of existing UI systems. Information from this survey will ensure the Administration allocates resources, technical assistance, and oversight effectively. It will also inform Congress’ efforts to devise policy solutions to respond to these deficiencies. We ask you to complete this survey within 60 days and to include answers to the following questions:

1) Information on State UI Systems (to be answered for each state)  

a. When was the last time the state’s UI system, including the software, was fully updated? 

b. Is the state’s technology equipped to handle a high volume of claims? 

c. Is the state’s UI online claims process accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?  If not, why not?

d. Is it possible to file a claim on a mobile device, tablet, or desktop computer?

e. Are users able to reset passwords online? If a user requests a password reset via phone, can staff reset it, or will a new password be mailed via USPS to the claimant?

f. Is the state’s online claims system accessible for users with limited English proficiency and individuals with disabilities?

g. Does the state’s UI system allow employers to provide the state information for its laid off employees to speed up the claims process? If not, has the state asked for DOL guidance on ways to allow employers to submit laid off employees’ UI claims information?

h. What are the state’s highest priorities for upgrading system capabilities?  

2) State UI Systems and CARES Act Implementation (to be answered for each state)

a. Was the state able to modify its existing system to accept PUA claims?  

b. Did the state hire outside consultants to update the UI system to administer CARES Act programs? If so, what was the name of the consultant?  Was that consultant used by other states? 

c. In updating the state UI system to administer CARES Act programs, did the state make other upgrades to the system that will be beneficial in the long term?

d. If upgrades were made to the state’s UI system, did the state test the updated system with potential users before making it available to claimants?

e. Does the state require paper UI or PUA claims for any group?  

f. Is the state’s system properly guiding individuals who do not qualify for regular UI to apply for PUA to prevent erroneous denials?

3) General Trends  

a. On average, how long did it take states to begin disbursing FPUC, PUA, and PEUC benefits after the passage of the CARES Act?

b. What is the primary reason cited by states for delays in disbursing CARES Act benefits?

c. What is the average length of time it takes states to process a regular UI claim and pay the benefit?  What is the average length of time it takes for states to process a PUA claim and pay the benefit?

d. Were CARES Act programs implemented more quickly in states with the most modern UI systems and most accessible UI claims processes? Are there any common features of states systems that facilitated quick implementation of CARES Act programs?

e. Which states have sought technical assistance from DOL in making necessary changes to its UI system? What assistance did DOL provide?

f. Has DOL facilitated the sharing of best practices and information across states? How can DOL facilitate such interstate cooperation going forward?  

In addition to conducting the above survey and submitting the results to Congress, we urge you to provide policy recommendations to Congress to address insufficient technology capabilities to reduce disbursement delays in benefits. We ask you to identify the estimated funding levels necessary to fully upgrade technology systems in all states and to suggest policies to ensure that funding is most effectively used, such as creating incentives for states to share technology or software. Finally, we ask you to identify the ways in which DOL is currently monitoring, conducting oversight, and providing technical assistance to help states efficiently process claims and disburse benefits.

The economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed pervasive inadequacies in state unemployment programs, which are hampered by outdated technology. To properly respond to these deficiencies, DOL should conduct a comprehensive assessment of states’ capacities and identify the policy solutions necessary to mitigate the current delays and prevent them in the future. DOL should also use all of its existing authority to help states expedite the processing of UI claims. We must do everything we can to ensure laid off workers are able to apply for and receive their unemployment compensation in a timely manner. 

We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure unemployment programs efficiently and effectively serve American workers.

USDA Announces COVID Food Assistance Program

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Senator Mazie K. Hirono announced that farmers and distributors in Hawaii will receive $5.2 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide food to families in need. 

In addition to this direct support to farmers and ranchers, USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program is partnering with regional and local distributors, whose workforces have been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat and deliver boxes to Americans in need.

“America’s farming community is facing an unprecedented situation as our nation tackles the coronavirus. President Trump has authorized USDA to ensure our patriotic farmers, ranchers, and producers are supported and we are moving quickly to open applications to get payments out the door and into the pockets of farmers,” said Secretary Perdue. “These payments will help keep farmers afloat while market demand returns as our nation reopens and recovers. America’s farmers are resilient and will get through this challenge just like they always do with faith, hard work, and determination.”

Beginning May 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through the Farm Service Agency (FSA), will be accepting applications from agricultural producers who have suffered losses.

Background:

CFAP provides vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities.

Farmers and ranchers will receive direct support, drawn from two possible funding sources. The first source of funding is $9.5 billion in appropriated funding provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability (CARES) Act to compensate farmers for losses due to price declines that occurred between mid-January 2020, and mid-April 2020 and provides support for specialty crops for product that had been shipped from the farm between the same time period but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channels. The second funding source uses the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act to compensate producers for $6.5 billion in losses due to on-going market disruptions.

Non-Specialty Crops and Wool

Non-specialty crops eligible for CFAP payments include malting barley, canola, corn, upland cotton, millet, oats, soybeans, sorghum, sunflowers, durum wheat, and hard red spring wheat. Wool is also eligible. Producers will be paid based on inventory subject to price risk held as of January 15, 2020. A payment will be made based 50 percent of a producer’s 2019 total production or the 2019 inventory as of January 15, 2020, whichever is smaller, multiplied by the commodity’s applicable payment rates.

Livestock

Livestock eligible for CFAP include cattle, lambs, yearlings and hogs. The total payment will be calculated using the sum of the producer’s number of livestock sold between January 15 and April 15, 2020, multiplied by the payment rates per head, and the highest inventory number of livestock between April 16 and May 14, 2020, multiplied by the payment rate per head.

Dairy

For dairy, the total payment will be calculated based on a producer’s certification of milk production for the first quarter of calendar year 2020 multiplied by a national price decline during the same quarter. The second part of the payment is based a national adjustment to each producer’s production in the first quarter.

Specialty Crops

For eligible specialty crops, the total payment will be based on the volume of production sold between January 15 and April 15, 2020; the volume of production shipped, but unpaid; and the number of acres for which harvested production did not leave the farm or mature product destroyed or not harvested during that same time period, and which have not and will not be sold. Specialty crops include, but are not limited to, almonds, beans, broccoli, sweet corn, lemons, iceberg lettuce, spinach, squash, strawberries and tomatoes. A full list of eligible crops can be found on farmers.gov/cfap. Additional crops may be deemed eligible at a later date.

Eligibility

There is a payment limitation of $250,000 per person or entity for all commodities combined. Applicants who are corporations, limited liability companies or limited partnerships may qualify for additional payment limits where members actively provide personal labor or personal management for the farming operation. Producers will also have to certify they meet the Adjusted Gross Income limitation of $900,000 unless at least 75 percent or more of their income is derived from farming, ranching or forestry-related activities. Producers must also be in compliance with Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions.

Applying for Assistance

Producers can apply for assistance beginning on May 26, 2020. Additional information and application forms can be found at farmers.gov/cfap. Producers of all eligible commodities will apply through their local FSA office. Documentation to support the producer’s application and certification may be requested. FSA has streamlined the signup process to not require an acreage report at the time of application and a USDA farm number may not be immediately needed. Applications will be accepted through August 28, 2020.

Payment Structure

To ensure the availability of funding throughout the application period, producers will receive 80 percent of their maximum total payment upon approval of the application. The remaining portion of the payment, not to exceed the payment limit, will be paid at a later date as funds remain available.

USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or any other Service Center agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

Hawaii to Receive More Than $5 Million in Funds for Additional Response to Pandemic

Today, Sen. Mazie K. Hirono announced that Hawaii will receive more than $5 million in supplemental Community Development Block Grants coronavirus response (CDBG-CV) funding to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus. This is the second disbursement of CDBG-CV funds from the CARES Act, the third coronavirus relief package Congress passed.

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono

Hawaii County will receive $975,815, Kauai County will receive $261,137, Maui County will receive $698,280, and the City and County of Honolulu will receive $3,081,677.

These funds are intended to target public health, coronavirus, and housing and economic disruption needs, which could include constructing testing, diagnosis, or treatment facilities; supporting new businesses or business expansion to create jobs while responding to infectious disease; and expanding microenterprises that address specific needs during quarantine related to medical, food delivery, cleaning, and other essential assistance. 

The counties have begun using the first tranche of CDBG-CV funding to prepare and deliver meals, replenish food bank shelves, provide rental and mortgage assistance, and increase access to transitional housing for those experiencing homelessness.

“The pandemic has exposed the deep divisions and inequality that are present in our nation. This funding will help our state with flexible resources so each county can appropriately address the needs of particularly vulnerable populations. Hawaii, and the nation, will continue to need assistance as we grapple with COVID-19, and I will continue to support funding to address the changing needs of Hawaii residents during the pandemic,” Sen. Hirono said.

Last month, Sen. Hirono announced that Hawaii received $12 million in Department of Housing and Urban Development grants, including nearly $8 million in Community Development Block Grant coronavirus response funds.

Hawaii Fishing Sector to Receive Portion of $300 Million Federal Aid

Hawai‘i’s struggling fisheries could be getting some help.  On Thursday, the Secretary of Commerce announced the allocation of $300 million in fisheries assistance funding provided by the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act). This funding is to states, tribes, and territories with coastal and marine fisheries who have been negatively affected by COVID–19.

The DLNR and its Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) is currently in the process of developing a spending plan, which, if approved by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will allow fishery participants to apply for financial relief from Hawai‘i’s $4.3 million portion.  “This is welcome relief for our struggling local fisheries,” said Brian Neilson, DAR Administrator.  “Unfortunately, it will only cover a fraction of the economic losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, so we continue to encourage residents to support our local fishers and seafood producers as much as possible.” 

Fishery participants eligible for funding include commercial fishing businesses, charter/for-hire fishing businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors, and other fishery-related businesses. For questions about eligibility or the application: dlnr.aquatics@hawaii.gov.

Hawaii to Receive More Than $5.5M in Federal Funding for Law Enforcement, COVID-19 Training

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz today announced Hawai‘i will receive more than $5.5 million in new federal funding to support local law enforcement agencies and cover the cost of COVID-19 response efforts, including personal protective equipment for law enforcement personnel, training, and overtime pay for officers on the frontlines.

“Our police and correctional officers are on the frontlines of this pandemic and are putting their health at risk to keep our communities safe,” said Sen. Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This new funding will give our law enforcement officers additional resources to protect themselves and our communities during this crisis.”

The more than $5.5 million in funding for Hawai‘i law enforcement includes:

  • $3,642,919 for the State of Hawai‘i
  • $246,300 for the County of Hawai‘i
  • $87,170 for the County of Kauai
  • $260,083 for the County of Maui
  • $1,296,475 for the City and County of Honolulu

This funding is made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and allows states and local government to support a broad range of activities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the pandemic, including through overtime, personal protective equipment, hiring, supplies, training, and travel expenses.

Colleges in Hawaii Receiving Over $22 Million to Help Cover Cost of Distance Learning, Fund Financial Aid for Students

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that Hawai‘i will receive $22,379,622 in new federal funding to help 12 colleges, universities, and community colleges transition to distance learning and provide emergency grants to students.

“Hawai‘i colleges and universities are refunding millions for housing, struggling to pay for salaries, and are incurring new expenses in the transition to digital classrooms,” said Senator Schatz. “The federal funding will not only help to cover these costs, it will also provide immediate assistance to students so that they can continue their education during this uncertain time.”

These new federal funds can be used for emergency financial aid grants to students to help ease expenses caused by campus disruptions from the coronavirus. The funds can also be used by institutions to help cover the costs of transitioning to distance learning, new technology, faculty and staff trainings, and payroll, among other things.

The higher education institutions receiving funding are:

  • Chaminade University is receiving $1,325,494
  • Hawai‘i Community College is receiving $1,017,091
  • Honolulu Community College is receiving $940,828
  • Kapiolani Community College is receiving $1,700,406
  • Kauai Community College is receiving $472,520
  • Leeward Community College is receiving $1,775,419
  • Pacific Rim Christian University is receiving $143,443
  • University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is receiving $2,691,269
  • University of Hawai‘i at Manoa is receiving $9,566,751
  • University of Hawai‘i Maui College is receiving $1,041,403
  • University of Hawai‘i-West Oahu is receiving $1,238,245
  • Windward Community College is receiving $466,753

The funding is made available through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and will be allocated to colleges and universities that serve Native Hawaiian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander students.

More information on federal support for higher education in Hawai‘i can be found on Senator Schatz’s online resource guide: schatz.senate.gov/coronavirus/education/higher-ed.

Hawaii Receiving $58M in Federal Funding to Support & Cover Cost Of COVID-19 Care, Testing, Treatment

Sen. Brian Schatz announced that Hawai‘i will receive $58 million in new federal funding to support 56 rural hospitals and community health centers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The funds will cover lost revenue due to delayed or canceled non-emergent services or procedures, as well as additional health care expenses attributable to the coronavirus, including testing, treating patients, and instituting preventive measures.

“Rural hospitals and health care providers across Hawai‘i provide essential primary care and other health care services to thousands of Hawai‘i families,” said Senator Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This new federal funding will help our state’s rural health care providers so that they can weather this pandemic and continue to provide high quality care.”

The new funding is part of the $100 billion grant program for health care providers in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Recipients of this allocation for rural providers include rural acute care general hospitals, Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), Rural Health Clinics (RHCs), and Community Health Centers (CHCs) located in rural areas.  RHCs and CHCs will receive a minimum of $100,000, and rural acute care hospitals and CAHs will receive a minimum of $1 million, with additional payment based on annual operating expenses.

In addition to the funding announced today, over 1,700 health care providers in Hawai‘i have already received more than $165 million through this program. The recently enacted Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act included an additional $75 billion in grants for health care providers as well as $25 billion specifically for testing.

More information on federal support for Hawai‘i health care providers can be found on Senator Schatz’s online resource guide: schatz.senate.gov/coronavirus.

Schatz Calls for More Funding for Nonprofits in Next COVID-19 Relief Bill

Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz led a group of 27 senators to urge Senate leadership to include additional emergency funding for nonprofit organizations in the next COVID-19 relief bill. Nonprofits are an essential part of the frontline coronavirus pandemic response, providing important social services such as nutrition assistance, shelter for those experiencing homelessness, child care and education programs, and care for victims of domestic and sexual violence. 

“Nonprofits are fast, they are nimble, and they are on the frontlines. And as we ask them to do more, they are facing revenue shortfalls. These institutions are absolutely pivotal to our survival and our recovery,” said Sen. Schatz.

While demand for nonprofit services is increasing, these organizations are facing significant economic hardship. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided $350 billion in partially forgivable loans to small businesses and nonprofits, but this funding ran out within weeks. The $310 billion in new funding for this loan program passed by Congress last week is also expected to quickly run dry. Rather than requiring nonprofits to compete for limited resources with small businesses, the senators are calling for a significant increase in funding specifically for nonprofits.

The letter was also endorsed by 53 organizations, including the National Council of Nonprofits, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Meals on Wheels, YWCA USA, YMCA of the USA, and National Health Council. For a full list, click here.

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Chairman Shelby, and Vice Chairman Leahy:

As you work on the next legislative package to address the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we strongly encourage you to ensure that nonprofits are protected by including additional emergency funding.  Nonprofits provide essential social services for many Americans, including food, shelter, and medical services.  During this public health crisis, communities nationwide are relying on nonprofit services to survive—more and more each day.  At the same time as this increased demand, nonprofits are facing significant economic hardship.

Providing the nonprofit sector increased emergency funding for targeted state formula grants and programs will ensure that national and local organizations can maintain a continuity of services.  These funds must be distributed quickly through multiple existing funding streams, including emergency grants to nonprofits operating under existing federal grants, as well as through sub-grantees for state or local governments, or other pass-through entities.

For example:

  • An additional $55 million for the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act programs and $100 million for the Sexual Assault Services Program, which will help service providers to prevent and respond to sexual assault and family and domestic violence, including shelter and supportive services for those who need it;
  • An additional $50 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant will assist child care providers, as well as child care resource and referral agencies, as they provide emergency child care for first responders and essential workers, ensuring that these providers are able to remain open and that the child care system remains functioning for families to get back to work and school as we recover from this crisis;
  • An additional $500 million for the 21st Century Community Learning Center program will allow afterschool and summer learning programs to provide services to keep children on track academically through this school year and the summer, and even into the next school year;
  • Additional funding for the Title V Maternal and Child Health Block Grant and the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program as well as other public health programs;
  • Additional funding for the Older Americans Act and Administration for Community Living programs that provide in-home assistance, legal services, language assistance, nutrition services, and other vital services and supports older adults and people with disabilities need to stay healthy at home and to prevent negative impacts of prolonged social isolation;
  • An additional $100 million to expand the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration programs for national out-of-school time organizations to help support essential-skills development, career exposure, employability & certification and work-based learning; and
  • An additional $4.1 billion for the Social Services Block Grant, with a 5 percent set-aside for tribes, to support critical social services for vulnerable populations, including those at risk of family violence and abuse, children and youth in foster care, older adults struggling with hunger, and other supports.

These are a few of the existing funding streams that the next coronavirus package should support with an increase in appropriations to meet an immediate need.  The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act was a positive first step to aid the nonprofit sector.  The nonprofit community will continue to play an essential role in coronavirus response, and we need them to scale up and meet an increase in demand.  A rapid infusion of funds to nonprofit organizations that are partnering with state and local governments will help frontline responders and vulnerable families.

As we draft legislation both to mitigate and recover from this pandemic, we must give nonprofits the support they need to lead their communities out of this crisis.  Thank you for your consideration of this request.

HHS Announces CARES Act Funding Distribution to States

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is announcing upcoming action by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide additional resources to state and local jurisdictions in support of our nation’s response to the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Using funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020, CDC is awarding $631 million to 64 jurisdictions (Hawaii will receive $12,392,500) through the existing Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases (ELC) cooperative agreement. These funds, along with the previous support CDC has provided, will help states with their efforts to re-open America.

“This new funding secured from Congress by President Trump will help public health departments across America continue to battle COVID-19 and expand their capacity for testing, contact tracing, and containment,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “The professionals who staff America’s state, local, tribal, and territorial public health departments have played a vital role in protecting Americans throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, by reporting and analyzing surveillance data, tracing the spread of the virus, and developing scientific guidelines appropriate for local communities. As we look toward re-opening the economy, the work of these dedicated public health officials is only going to get more important, and the Trump Administration and CDC will be working right alongside them to assist.”

“This infusion of additional funding into the nation’s public health infrastructure will strengthen our capacity to implement tried and true containment measures,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. “The ability to implement aggressive contact tracing, surveillance and testing will be fundamental to protecting vulnerable populations as the nation takes steps to reopen and Americans begin returning to their daily lives.”

CDC will use existing networks to reach out to state and local jurisdictions to access this funding, which may be used for a variety of activities including:

  • Establishing or enhancing the ability to aggressively identify cases, conduct contact tracing and follow up, as well as implement appropriate containment measures.
  • Improving morbidity and mortality surveillance.
  • Enhancing testing capacity.
  • Controlling COVID-19 in high-risk settings and protect vulnerable or high-risk populations.
  • Working with healthcare systems to manage and monitor system capacity.

To view a full list of the funding jurisdictions, including past COVID-19 related funding from CDC, please visit here.

Mayor Kim Urges Small Businesses to Apply for Financial Help from Federal Government

Mayor Harry Kim is urging all eligible small businesses in Hawai‘i County to apply for financial help from the Federal government. Congress has passed new legislation that includes $310 billion to replenish the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), first established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. 

The program provides small employers with forgivable loans to maintain their existing workforce and help pay for other expenses like rent, mortgage, and utilities.

“I urge all small business owners in Hawai‘i County to contact a lender certified by the Small Business Administration for complete information and to apply for a PPP loan,” Kim said.  “Please take advantage of these programs to save your business and provide for your employees.”

Small businesses, sole proprietorships, independent contractors, self-employed persons and private non-profits are eligible. The loan will be fully forgiven if the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. At least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll.  

Loan payments will also be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees.

Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels.  Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease.

For more information, call your bank or visit SBA.gov. To find other resources for your business, visit www.hawaiicounty.gov/covidbusinesshelp/ .

Rep. Gabbard Announces FEMA & Education Funding, New IRS Webpage

Today, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard announced new federal resources and distributing of funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act “CARES Act” to help Hawai‘i cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, including an online tool — the “Get My Payment” App — to track individual Economic Impact Payments.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

“During this time of critical need for individuals, small businesses, healthcare providers, and our state, we are working to ensure Federal funds get to those who need them most. More funding towards disaster relief and our Department of Education is on the way, due to the last legislative aid package (CARES Act) passed by Congress,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “While these resources will help, they are not enough. Even as people start to receive their one-time Economic Impact Payment, it is not enough — direct basic payments will need to continue for as long as this healthcare crisis continues. We need contact tracing and testing, we need more PPE for our healthcare workers, and we need all residents in the state to stay home and wear face masks if they must go out in public. We must take care of each other now, and rebuild together when this crisis is over.”

The Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service today announced an online portal, the Get My Payment tool, for those eligible to track their Economic Impact Payment. The tool will also allow taxpayers to provide their direct deposit information so that they can receive the money electronically rather than by a paper check.

The Department of Education announced $3 billion, authorized by the CARES Act, to be made available to governors through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. Hawai‘i will be receiving almost $10 million through this fund. The money will be distributed by the Governor to students and educational organizations impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The CARES Act also provided $30.75 billion in support for the Education Stabilization Fund to support education across the country. Hawai‘i will receive an estimated $88.2 million to support K-12 school districts, colleges, and universities through the crisis. $43.1 million will be for K-12 schools, $35 million for higher education institutions, and $10.1 million for the Governor to distribute to schools based on need. The funding also includes $154 million for the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. 

The funds include $100 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Emergency Management Performance Grant Supplemental Allocation. The money is available to all 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia as part of the CARES Act. The funds are used to assist these governments in their public health and emergency management activities supporting prevention of and response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. States and territories can apply for funding by April 28. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation also announced the distribution of approximately $10 billion in emergency funds through the CARES Act’s Airport Grant Program. Hawai‘i is receiving over $133 million in the emergency funds to support 15 airports across the state. The state-by-state and airport-by-airport breakdown is available here.

State Urges Colleges to Disburse Emergency Cash Grants for Students Impacted by COVID-19

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) encourages Hawaii’s accredited post-secondary institutions to quickly determine how they will distribute the U.S. Department of Education cash grants provided by the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.  The grants, authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will be distributed immediately as per an announcement by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos. 

The CARES Act provides funds to colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs and are required to provide cash grants to students for expenses related to disruptions to their educations due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  Expenses may include, but are not limited to, course materials and technology, food, housing, health care, and childcare.  In order to access the funds, the U.S. Department of Education requires the institution to sign a certification affirming that it will distribute the funds in accordance with applicable law.  The institution then determines which students will receive the cash grants.

“We want to ensure that these colleges and universities are working quickly to get funding to the students who need it the most,” said Bobbi Lum-Mew, Hawaii Post-secondary Education Authorization Program (HPEAP) administrator.  “We encourage them to take action so that affected students can continue their education without worry.”

The Hawaii Post-Secondary Education Authorization Program will be requesting authorized institutions to submit information on how they are disbursing the U.S. Department of Education cash grants. For a list of schools authorized to operate in Hawaii, go to  http://cca.hawaii.gov/hpeap/authorized-schools/.

For information on COVID-19’s impact on higher education, visit the HPEAP website at http://cca.hawaii.gov/hpeap/main/covid19 / or emailhpeap@dcca.hawaii.gov.

Banking & Financial Resources Available During Pandemic

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Division of Financial Institutions encourages the public to contact their financial institutions and government agencies to discuss opportunities for financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“We encourage both individuals and businesses to look into the available financial assistance programs being provided. Banks and financial institutions are ready to support the federal stimulus initiatives and are continuing to provide services for consumers,” said Iris Ikeda, Hawai‘i Commissioner of Financial Institutions.

Nearly $2.2 trillion in emergency economic relief will be made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law in late March.  Local and national banks will be processing Small Business Association (SBA) loans and in particular the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) of the CARES Act. 

The PPP authorizes up to $349 billion in loans to small businesses to pay their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is available to all businesses with 500 or fewer employees to include nonprofits, veterans’ organizations, tribal business concerns, sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors. Loans granted through the PPP will be at a fixed term and are to be used to cover payroll costs including healthcare benefits, loan and rent payments, and utilities. Loan forgiveness is subject to the borrower using all of the loan proceeds for forgivable purposes and maintaining its employee and compensation levels.

“Banks are now accepting applications from Hawai‘i’s small businesses. The funding is made on a first come first served basis, so I urge all to contact your bank immediately to start the process,” added Ikeda.

On April 3rd, loan applications were opened for small businesses and sole proprietors and starting April 10th, independent contractors and self-employed individuals would be able to apply. Applicants need to apply through an approved SBA lender or any federally insured financial institution and are strongly encouraged to apply as soon as possible while funding remains available.

More details and information about the program is available on the United States Treasury website at https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/top-priorities/cares-act/assistance-for-small-businesses. A borrower’s fact sheet can be found at https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/PPP–Fact-Sheet.pdf.

In addition to being available to facilitate emergency initiatives provided through the federal CARES Act, Hawai‘i’s banks remain available to their clients and are assisting in many ways by:

  • Providing relevant information about COVID-19 and the financial assistance programs being offered;
  • Offering loan deferments and loan modification options;
  • Making available small consumer loans up to $8,000;
  • Maintaining physical banking branches and limiting closures across the state;
  • Bolstering call center operations to assist with inquiries; and
  • Waiving certain fees such as ATM surcharges and early withdrawal fees for time certificates.

In order to receive the available financial assistance, the public is reminded that they need to reach out to their financial institution to request the assistance and to discuss what options are available to them.

Additional information on the CARES Act and what Hawai‘i’s residents and business should do to seek financial assistance were provided in Governor David Ige’s Community Connection held yesterday, link at https://www.facebook.com/GovernorDavidIge/videos/2293014734334545/.

In an opinion editorial published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on April 6th, Commissioner Ikeda emphasized the strength of Hawai‘i’s banking industry and that it is committed providing for Hawai‘i throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Column: Hawai‘i’s banks strong, committed to help during pandemic (https://www.staradvertiser.com/2020/04/06/editorial/island-voices/column-hawaiis-banks-strong-committed-to-help-during-pandemic/).

COVID-19: Federal Funding for Hawai‘i Communities, Transit & Housing

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) announced Federal funding coming to Hawai‘i, including over $100 million for COVID-19 response for public transit and over $7 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). The funding implements portions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), passed by Congress just over a week ago.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

“The recent passage of the CARES Act provided critical assistance for individuals, businesses, and essential services, and we are starting to see these resources delivered to Hawai‘i,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “These resources are going directly to our counties and to support housing programs for those in need.”

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has allocated a total of $107,816,109 for transit in Hawai‘i to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus. The money will reach Hawai‘i through the Urbanized Area, Formula Grants Program Rural Areas Formula Grants Program, and the Tribal Transit Formula Grants Program. The funds are vital to keeping public transportation systems in Hawai‘i — which have seen dramatic drops in use and ridership — survive the pandemic and be there for Hawai‘i’s residents that depend on it to get back to work once the public health crisis has passed.

Starting April 1, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that mortgage servicers must extend deferred or reduced mortgage payment options (forbearance) for up to six months, and must provide an additional six months of forbearance if requested by borrowers with a financial hardship that makes them unable to pay their mortgage due to the COVID-19 National Emergency. This mandate implements provisions contained in the landmark Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). You can read more details in the Department’s full announcement.

HUD is also in charge of existing grant programs Congress provided with additional funds through the CARES Act to help respond to the pandemic.

Through Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), Hawai‘i was awarded the following funds in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Hawai‘i County — $1,543,033
  • Kaua‘i County — $412,929
  • Maui County — $1,104,173
  • Honolulu — $4,872,982

These funds will help construct medical facilities, expand capacity of hospitals, replace HVAC systems, support business manufacturing medical supplies, construct a group living facility, and carry out job training of health care workers and technicians.

Additionally, Honolulu is receiving $95,143 through HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS) as well as $2,429,569 through Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) as part of the CARES Act. ESG funds support the building and operations of more emergency shelters for homeless individuals and families, provide hotel/motel vouchers, childcare and education services, and prevent individuals from becoming homeless.

Background: On March 27, the House passed H.R.748 by voice vote. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is the third bill passed by Congress as part of its emergency response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The bill includes direct cash payments to Americans, assistance for those who are out of work due to the outbreak, funding for small businesses, hospitals, and health care workers, and state and local governments. The bill’s funding for state and local governments includes at least $1.2 billion for Hawai‘i. The CARES Act also provided $25 billion to transit agencies to help to prevent, prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In March, working with Hawai‘i’s Congressional Delegation, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sent two letters calling on President Trump to Hawai‘i’s request for medical equipment, supplies and resources for the state.

Rep. Gabbard has hosted three telephone town hall events, on March 18March 25, and April 1, in order to update Hawai‘i residents with news about what is being done to confront the pandemic and assist those who are being affected by it. She was joined on these calls by state and federal public officials as well as community leaders to answer questions from across the state.

She has also created a COVID-19 resource webpage on her website as well as sent out regular e-newsletter updates to keep connected with constituents as developments happen.

On March 21, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard called for an immediate implementation of a 14-day self-quarantine for all passengers arriving in Hawaiʻi, both visitors and returning residents. The state later announced that a self-quarantine requirement would be implemented on March 26, but Rep. Tulsi Gabbard continued to advocate for an immediate implementation. She also sent a letter calling on the President to issue a minimum two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order — a proven, effective solution to slowing the spread of the virus

Rep. Gabbard voted to pass the first round of emergency funds to address the novel coronavirus. Some Federal funds are already reaching Hawai‘i. The first coronavirus emergency funding bill that I helped pass in Congress has now led to over $750,000 being allocated to 14 community health centers in our district.

Rep. Gabbard voted on March 14 to pass H.R.6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which will provide free testing for COVID-19, two weeks of paid sick leave, up to three months paid family and medical leave, unemployment insurance for furloughed workers, food security for those who rely on food stamps, student meals, senior nutrition plans, and food banks, and increase federal Medicaid funds for local, state, tribal and territorial governments and health systems.

Rep. Gabbard also introduced H.Res. 897, a resolution that would provide an emergency non-taxable Universal Basic Payment of $1,000 per month to all adult Americans until COVID-19 no longer presents a public health emergency. She was the earliest Member of Congress to introduce legislation for a Universal Basic Income-like payment as a temporary economic stimulus package to directly and immediately help Americans as they weather this crisis.

As the virus was first spreading in different parts of the world, Rep. Gabbard called on the Trump Administration to suspend flights from South Korea and Japan given the prevalence of COVID-19 infections in these countries, until they can guarantee all passengers will be tested prior to boarding flights to the United States.

In order to ensure that any treatment developed for COVID-19 is accessible and affordable, Rep. Gabbard joined a letter to President Trump demanding that pharmaceutical companies are not issued exclusive licenses for the production of such treatments or capitalize on drugs that have been funded by taxpayer dollars.

Rep. Gabbard also wrote to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar calling for clear guidelines for state and local governments to receive federal reimbursement for the costs they are incurring as part of their response to this public health crisis.

COVID-19 Assistance For Homeowners & Renters

Mortgage payment forbearance

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides relief for homeowners with government-guaranteed mortgages.  Homeowners with mortgages backed by the FHA, USDA, VA, HUD Section 184a, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac are eligible for loan forbearance for up to one year without fees, penalties or additional interest. 

Homeowners who are facing a financial hardship, either directly or indirectly, from the coronavirus may receive the forbearance by submitting a request to their servicer stating they are experiencing a hardship related to the virus.  The forbearance will be granted for 180 days and may be extended for up to another 180 days at the borrower’s request.

Homeowners in need of the forbearance should reach out to their mortgage servicers as soon as possible or contact a HUD approved housing counselor.  Contact information for a homeowner’s mortgage servicer can be found in monthly mortgage statements or coupon book.  The nearest housing counselor can be found at www.consumerfinance.gov/find-a-housing-counselor or by calling (800) 569-4287.

Foreclosure relief 

Homeowners with FHA, USDA, VA, or Section 184 or 184A mortgages, or mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who are facing foreclosure will also have relief from foreclosure or being forced to relocate as we address the COVID-19 pandemic.  The foreclosure eviction moratorium is in effect until May 17, 2020. 

Renters in properties with federally-guaranteed loans or participating in federal housing programs

Eviction Moratorium for Renters

Until July 26, 2020, property owners are prohibited from filing for eviction against or charging any fees for unpaid rent and fees to a tenant in properties with federally-guaranteed loans or participating in federal housing programs.  Property owners must also issue a notice to tenants to vacate 30 days before an eviction and the notice to vacate cannot be issued during this 120-day period.

This protection covers properties that receive federal subsidies such as public housing, Section 8 assistance, USDA rural housing programs, and Low Income Housing Tax Credits, as well as properties that have a mortgage issued or guaranteed by a federal agency (including FHA and USDA) or Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Additionally, owners of multifamily buildings with federal loans in forbearance may not evict tenants for unpaid rent or charge late fees or penalties until the loan exits forbearance. 

Renters seeking information on whether they are covered by the moratorium should contact Legal Aid Society of Hawaii or a HUD approved housing counselor.  You can find the nearest housing counselor here or by calling (800) 569-4287.